SURVEY SAYS: Lessons from Elders

May 5, 2014 ( – Last week, I asked NewsDash readers how old is/was the oldest person they know or have known and what lessons have they learned from them.

Nearly 37% of responding readers indicated they know or have known personally someone age 100 or older. For more than 47% of respondents, the oldest person they know or have known is/was in his or her 90s. Fourteen percent selected ages 80 to 89, and 2% selected 70 to 79.

Nearly 86% of responding readers said that person has taught them, either directly or indirectly, important lessons about aging and retirement, while 7% each either said that person hasn’t taught them lessons or they haven’t thought about it.

A positive attitude and keeping active were common themes from lessons learned. One of my favorites was “Take life as it comes. The good times are never as good as you think they are and the bad times are never as bad as you think they are.”

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the survey! I very much enjoyed reading all responses, and I believe you will too.

Asked to share the lessons learned, responding readers said:

Attitude is important. My grandmother-in-law lived alone, in her own home, until she was 99, and only moved into a facility because she broke her hip just before she turned 100. She lived simply and took pleasure in simple things. You don't need the most current "in" thing to be happy. Unless my body cooperates, I'm not sure I want to live until I'm 100.....

Be yourself. Figure out what you like to do and do it. Also, having money helps.

I learned this observing my mother-in-law even though she had no intention of teaching it. She has not made an effort to remain relevant or engaged. And as a result, life is confusing and frustrating. An example is not knowing you can view TV shows or movies from a library like Netflix or Amazon Prime. She doesn't understand how to use a cell phone and doesn't know what a computer is. So sad.

Attitude and involvement in community is critical. Always reaching out to others, initiates conversations and keeps a sense of humor.

Work until you're financially secure then retire and travel the world. Take care of your health

He was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes at the age of 95; when asked whether he was watching his diet and taking care of himself, he responded - NO, I don't care to live to be 103, like your great aunt! He passed away at the age of 99 (he would have been 100 in 3 months).

If you can't say something nice, say nothing.

My great-grandfather served as a Missionary to China in the early 1900s. He always said the key to a long life is to love other people. Hate and strife only add stress and shorten your life span, and really only hurt yourself, not the person you oppose.

When you retire, you only stop working. You don't stop living.

My grandmother lived to 106. She was volunteering at an eye clinic into her 90's and loved being around people and helping when she could. She also had a good sense of humor and an interest in the world around her. Great role model!

My grandmother taught me that I can still go deep sea fishing in my 80s and that having half-n-half on my cereal every morning will not kill me.

Enjoy the money you saved. Don't "leave it".

Lessons Learned (cont.)

Keep active, have a positive attitude about life, focus more on helping other people and less on yourself & have a glass of wine every day.

Think young; never grow up.

regarding retirement, he taught me that it's important to pay for long term care insurance.

Keep your mind sharp by doing puzzles, reading, and other mental activities.

You just keep going and do the best that you can each day without whining about what you can't do or don't have. Tomorrow is the next day coming which is a gift, use it.

Even the best laid plans can go awry.

I learned to not always be in a rush to get where I'm going (whether it's with my family, travel, career, you name it), and be sure to enjoy the journey.

Address longevity and sequence-of-returns risks

When my grandfather was 95, I asked him what advice he would give people after having lived 95 years. His response was "Take life as it comes. The good times are never as good as you think they are and the bad times are never as bad as you think they are." Sage advice!

Stay as active as possible and you will stay young.

She keeps active, walking even in the winter; doing puzzles to keep her mind active. In her younger years she ate healthy - unprocessed foods and lots of fruits and vegetables. She also had the right job (NYC Board of Education) with a great pension so she doesn't have to worry about retirement or medical bills.

Keep active! My wife's great aunt lived to 97 and was a travel agent and ran a condominium in Miami Beach up until the last 6 months of her life. She also traveled all over Europe and South America.

Lessons Learned (cont.)

Positive attitude and always have a plan for the future

I have had several family members who have lived until well into their 90's. What I've learned from them is that "stuff" doesn't matter; the only thing that does is the people you love and the relationships you build. That's what really stands the test of time.

Keep going, be active. Don't sit back and watch time go by thinking you are too old to make a difference. Because you CAN still make a difference!

You don't finance toys. A house is the only thing you should be paying on. Instead of paying interest to the bank invest and have the bank pay you!!!!

When you step out your front door learn quickly that you're not all that important and learn even more quickly that, if you're not mindful, when you step back in, too.

If you spend your retirement funds wisely, you can enjoy retirement without the fear of running out of money. Of course you need to be prudent throughout your life in order to have retirement funds to start with.

The 100% J&S annuity was the perfect choice. My grandfather worked for a company for 30 years. His retirement annuity was in pay status for 36 years.

My great gramma drank milk, lots of it. She said this was the reason she never broke a hip or any other bone.

To live every day to the fullest.

No complaining! Every day above ground is a good day!

Saving for retirement so that you are able to live the life you want is so important.

My great Aunt Myrtle lived to 106, drove a car til she was 99 and outlived both of her children. She walked every day and only spent money on what was needed and never spent money on "wants". She always took care of herself and never asked for anything, even after her husband and then her 2 children passed, she never needed or asked for anything.

In verbatim comments, most readers shared more lessons learned from their elders and a few lamented about how the lessons we can learn are not sought or appreciated. One reader shared a very humorous response by a 103-year-old about celebrating the next birthday. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “I love talking to old people about events they've experienced in their lifetime. I just hope I'm as interesting when I'm old...of course the definition of ‘old’ keeps changing with the older I get!”


Enjoy the memories and things you have now because you may not have them in the future.

I love talking to old people about events they've experienced in their lifetime. I just hope I'm as interesting when I'm old...of course the definition of "old" keeps changing with the older I get!

Teaching by example is so much more impactful. My mother walks 4 miles a day, has a Facebook Account and an iPhone. My mother-in-law sits around all day, is constantly confused and wouldn't have a clue what any of the things listed above are.

From the current crop of 90+, a phrase comes to mind - "Aging with Grace". They are patient, perceptive, maintain the fullest level of continued involvement that they can. Do not consider themselves limited by "age" but rather use judgment day to day on what is possible for them. Rarely complain, when asked will share fascinating stories (priceless really) about their lives, both growing up and their careers. They distinguish between retired from a job and retired from life - and that is huge in how those 20-30 years are lived.

Don't sweat the small stuff!

I've heard it said that retirement is doing what you want without having to ask permission!

My grandmother, and now my father, both practice what I call the "rocking chair" philosophy of life: don't waste your energy on things you hear or see about which you can do nothing, (i.e. the nightly news.) Save that energy for the time when you will need to protect your loved ones. Care, share and be generous, but also use common sense, which according to my Dad, is sorely lacking if you believe everything the media puts out!

Many young people are frustrated with the elderly. An elderly person may not pick up technology very quickly - but think about the life choices and work they had to do to get to where they are at - all WITHOUT modern conveniences like the internet. It's important to step back and remember that they have many more years of experience than we do, and maybe taking the time to hear their stories and glean their wisdom could be the most beneficial use of our time.

I have a neighbor who is 86, and she's a shining example of someone who enjoys life and lives it to the fullest. She's active in the community and takes good care of herself, her family, and her friends. She's shown me that you don't sit around watching the clock on the wall feeling sorry for yourself because you can't do what you used to do. You go out there and do what you can do, and you enjoy doing it. It brings her a lot of joy, and for those of us who know her, it brings us joy too. I want to be like Marie when I grow up!

Just like saving money ... the earlier you start your bucket list, the more things you can accomplish!

My grandma frequently told me, "getting old isn't for wimps." Watching family members struggle physically in their later years has motivated me to take better care of myself now. I'm no wimp, but I'll take any advantage I can get.

Verbatim (cont.)

Make the most out of it and don't "expect" your kids to care.

The biggest lessons I learned from my elders is to keep a positive attitude, believe in someone or something higher than yourself and follow your passion. If you do that, you will find contentment and peace.

Our elders can teach us to age gracefully and productively or to age badly and self-centeredly; it all depends on the person's focus. Glorifying God through it all is the best focus which produces the most helpful teaching.

It is important to ensure your children go to college so they can have good professional careers in order to be able to afford to support you when you get old and run out of money. Cynical but true.

Keep active in mind and body.

Don't let the naysayers keep you from doing what you want to do!

hold on to the positive--let go of the negative

How to keep an active life style as you get older.

You're too soon old and too late smart. Sadly, no matter how long it's said or how loud it's shouted, its meaning never seems to get through from one generation to the next.

Stay healthy, accept what life has dealt you, and enjoy it.

Find a way to keep active. Whether it's a new hobby, traveling or grandkids.

Elders can teach us old fashioned life lessons which are becoming a thing of the past.

I said to the 103 year old birthday boy that we really hoped to celebrate with him again next year. "Of course you will!" he goes, "According to the actuarial tables, very few people die between the ages of 103 and 104." Regards Brian

There's always someone worse off than you, so embrace your situation.

Today’s young generation does not have the same "work ethic" that our elders did. Our elders worked for what they needed, the young generation seems to want everything handed to them and only work for "wants" and not for what is needed. Our elders did a lot of physical work such as farming, raising and milking cows, chickens, etc. They lived longer due to the physical work (exercise). Today people are dying young due to not physically taking care of themselves, no exercise, overeating, etc.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.